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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 11.3.17

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

Our apologies to the family of the late Rep. Frank Attkison, whom we mistakenly wished a happy birthday in Thursday’s Sunburn. We regret the error.

Back in September, I wrote this about House Speaker and maybe-sorta candidate for Governor Richard Corcoran:

“The Speaker is emerging as everyone’s favorite target in the governor’s race. And he’s not even running.

“While on the stump, in media and digitally, Democrats have attacked Corcoran with alarming regularity – Gwen GrahamAndrew Gillum and even Philip Levine [who has now tossed his hat in].

“(Adam) Putnam and (Jack) Latvala have also been consistent in their attacks. Could it be that Corcoran is the most dangerous candidate to all of the above?”

That fact remained on display at Thursday’s “AP Day,” the Associated Press’ get-together on the Capitol’s 22nd floor of news media and newsmakers in advance of the annual Legislative Session.

Graham wasn’t content to go after just the Speaker, no, Graham scurrilously insisted on dragging down, yes, his wife and her pro bono work (she makes $1 per year) at the charter school she founded with him.

You know you’ve stepped in it if both Adam Smith and Florida Politics are calling you out.

“Shame on Richard Corcoran. I think we talk a lot about integrity and ethical rules. You should not be able to propose a piece of legislation and be personally benefitting from that piece of legislation,” said Graham, referring to Corcoran’s wife, Anne.

Frankly, her rant sullied the good Graham name.

Even the Florida Channel’s mild-mannered John Kennedy was stumped.

He tweeted, “.@GwenGraham claims @richardcorcoran profits from HB 7069 cuz wife runs charter (w/o pay & school doesn’t qualify..but still?)”

Attacking a selfless endeavor that benefits children is not the Gwen Graham I know.


— @NBCNews: Twitter says customer support employee deactivated President Trump’s account “on the employee’s last day.”

@Fineout: @FLGovScott kicks off #APFL – “It’s always good to be around my biggest supporters.”

@JKennedyReports: .@adamputnam rebuts reporter q about job of At Commish in modern Fla noting newspaper industry has crumbled but still employing reporter.

@Jason_Garcia: Adam Putnam’s emphasis on community colleges, and his criticism of university-obsessed policies, is sorta an elegant appeal to Trump voters.

@AdamSmithTimes: Underrated underdog candidate whose message is crisp and passionate (re: Chris King)

@Fineout: Summing up the current state of #FLLeg @oscarjb2 said that “it’s a weird time.”

@JoeReedy: Congrats to @bsfarrington on steering another AP Florida Legislative Day to shore

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If you read one thing –Boom or bust: Partisan lens sets view of Florida’s progress” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – With the 2018 election cycle looming, Republicans — chiefly Gov. Scott — are eager to paint a picture of an economy humming along due to years of GOP policies, while Democrats seek to shatter the pristine image as they work to retake the governor’s mansion for the first time in nearly two decades. That dynamic was on full display at the Associated Press annual pre-session planning day … Scott … told reporters that taxes have been cut dozens of times under his watch; that this year he wants a record amount for environmental spending (even some environmentalists support his request); that state revenues are up 30 percent; and that the state has created 1.3 million jobs since he took office in 2011. “I will finish the job,” Scott told reporters. “I will keep fighting for families.” … it’s a narrative Democrats are eager to poke holes in. “I see a Florida today that is in the back of the pack in nearly every equality and economic metric,” said [Democratic gubernatorial candidate ChrisKing, who noted that Floridians are spending “50 percent, 60 percent” of income on their rent and mortgage and that the state is failing to adequately fund mental health services.

Coda: Rick Scott’s last stand at AP Day at the Capitol” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Talking about the future and reminding the audience of his past, Scott … did not present a proposed state budget Thursday, as he has at previous AP events, but began with a recap of recent hurricane recovery, then a synopsis of his seven years as the state’s chief executive: Employment up, debt down, for example … He said he was confident the state has enough money without having to dip into any rainy-day funds, even after all the costs associated with Hurricane Irma. “We have the revenue … It all comes down to how you allocate the dollars,” he said, adding, “I will spend every dime I can to protect lives.”

Gov. Rick Scott: Special member projects should pay for Hurricane Irma via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News – “Florida’s lawmakers are heading into next year’s legislative session at odds on how to pay for the recovery of Hurricane Irma and address increasing costs in Medicaid and schools. On Thursday, Gov. Scott said he wants money from local projects set aside by lawmakers to pay for storm recovery. Senate President Joe Negron said he still believes those costs should be covered by state’s $3.8 billion cash reserves. This year, state lawmakers designated $645 million in this year’s $83 billion budget for projects that specifically benefit the voters who elected them to office. Scott said that money and a predicted increase in tax revenue should be more than enough.”

Rick Scott wants more money for human services in 2018 budget” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – IScott will ask the Florida Legislature for more money for child abuse investigators and improved adoption services … “I‘m going to spend every dime I can to protect lives,” Scott said. Contrary to projections by the Legislature’s chief economist, who has warned that the state is headed for a deficit if it doesn’t restrain spending, Scott said the state has enough money to pay for his spending priorities, including pay raises for select state employees, increased environmental spending and stipends for teachers to buy classroom supplies.

Despite lack of harassment claims, Joe Negron says Senate has ‘pro-reporting’ policy” via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times – “The process works when people come forward and there will be an investigation and when the complaint is founded there will be consequences,” Negron told reporters and editors during AP Day. But it’s not clear why Negron knows how that process works in the Senate because there have been so few complaints filed. In fact, Senate spokesperson Katie Betta said she was aware of only one complaint of sexual harassment and that was by a former legislative aide to then-Sen. Maria Sachs. Negron said that lack of formal complaints should not be interpreted as a lack of reporting of harassment, but when later asked by reporters what type of reporting has occurred, he didn’t elaborate. “We have zero tolerance for sexual harassment,” Negron said.

In combative exchange with reporters, Jack Latvala says he’s never been accused of sexual harassment” via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida – The question was straightforward: Does the Florida state Senate have a sexual harassment problem? But Senate budget chief Latvala … made the issue all about him when asked the question in front of a gaggle of reporters for the annual Associated Press pre-session planning day … “I waived my right to confidentiality with regard to my record. And I asked the general counsel to call down there and find out if I had any problems with this,” said Latvala. “I never had any incident with that. … When do we go from reporting the news to making the news?” Latvala then walked off. When asked to clarify if his answer meant he didn’t think there was a problem of sexual harassment in his chamber, he said: “You can take that as I’m not talking to you.”

Latvala slams POLITICO reporting as ‘Fake News’ ” via Florida Politics – One of the reasons Latvala is unwilling to talk to Glorioso and POLITICO Florida is that the political website seems determined to dig up something on the Pinellas Republican. According to text messages obtained by Florida Politics, Glorioso had recently interviewed past staffers of Latvala’s, asking them if they had been harassed or witnesses harassment.

In one message, a former staffer (whom Glorioso contacted because she had heard that Latvala and her had had a “falling out”) told the POLITICO reporter that she was barking up the wrong tree. The staffer said she and Latvala have been in touch and have a good relationship; in fact, in more than four years of working in Latvala’s office, she never heard or saw anything inappropriate.

“I conveyed to Ms. Glorioso today that I believe she is gone from reporting the news to trying to make the news,” Latvala remarked to Florida Politics. “Fake news at that!”

Oscar Braynon: Focus on harassment, not consensual relationships” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics – The assertion came after Braynon detailed his priorities for the 2018 Session. The Miami Gardens Democrat put juvenile justice reform, affordable housing for Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria and the opioid crisis at the top of his list. But even he acknowledged that the subject of sexual harassment was the proverbial “elephant in the room” for anyone in the Senate. And he warned that the focus of any investigation shouldn’t stray from actual harassment. “I think one of the things that we need to not get caught up in is taking our eye off the ball of sexual harassment,” Braynon said. He questioned if spending time debating whether consensual relationships make up cases of harassment could potentially undermine indisputable cases, which he explained as “women being treated differently, women being spoken to differently, women being touched inappropriately that don’t want that.”

Ray Rodriguez on pot: Speed it up, already” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida – “We appropriated money to the Department of Health to hire more employees because that’s critical for them to accomplish everything we directed them to accomplish,” the Estero Republican told reporters at The Associated Press annual pre-session gathering … He praised Office of Medical Marijuana Use Executive Director Christian Bax’s for hiring “top-level administrators” first and empowering them to “go out and build their own teams.” “So I don’t disagree with the strategy, but I think the pace could have been quicker. I would like to see it quicker,” he said.

House starts moving on ‘hope scholarship’ program” via the News Service of Florida – A House panel next week will take up a bill that would allow public-school students to transfer to other public schools or receive private-school scholarships if they are subject to bullying, harassment or violence. The bill (HB 1), filed this week by Rep. Byron Donalds is a priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran and could refuel debates about school-choice programs in the state. The bill, which would take effect during the 2018-2019 school year, is somewhat similar to the state’s long-established Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which helps pay for tens of thousands of low-income students to go to private schools. Donalds’ bill would use nonprofit “scholarship funding organizations” to play a key role in administering the program. Scholarships would be funded through tax credits that would be tied to people buying vehicles at car dealers or registering vehicles not purchased through dealers.


Florida Senate Democrats look likely to choose Jacksonville’s Audrey Gibson as the next caucus leader next week. Given the amount of narrative in recent months about Jacksonville not having its voice in leadership, this must be seen as a positive.

Talking with Florida Politics this week during a meeting of the Duval County legislative delegation, Gibson outlined her vision for Democrats in general and North Florida in particular:

– “First and foremost, we have to come back together as a unit and wipe away the negative going forward. And we need to go and discuss what our agenda’s going to look like.”

– One priority “for Democrats in general,” is education. “We need to revisit the funding for our community colleges that provide the workforce for us.”

– Environmental issues are also a priority for Senate Democrats — and everyone else. The environment is “not a red or blue issue — it’s a Florida issue.”

– Gibson also recognizes the diversity among Senate Democrats both in ideology and priorities. “Even within our caucus, there are individuals who look at policy a little differently.”

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Mike Pence, Rick Scott find support for tax cuts” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Vice President Pence and Gov. Scott found widespread support among a dozen or so business owners gathered in an Orlando factory for the kinds of tax cuts Trump is pushing in Washington. Members of the business roundtable assembled to meet with Pence at the Correct Craft factory that makes Nautique and other recreational boats, Pence asked: “How important would reducing taxes be to your business?” Plenty important, they all agreed. The roundtable group, which included a variety of business owners such as Orlando consultant and lobbyist Bertica Cabrera Morris and former Orange County Clerk of Courts Eddie Fernandez, who now has a private law practice, lauded the prospects of tax reform for their businesses. Many charged that overtaxation has put some of their friends out of business. And assured that they would share any tax savings benefits they received with their employees.

Scott won’t seek to lead GOP governors” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida – Asked … if he will attempt to add the duties of chairman of the Republican Governors Association to his 2018 responsibilities, Scott replied, “I won’t … I’ve got a lot of things to get done. It’s my last year in office. I’ve got a big agenda. I want to get those things done.” Scott, who is expected to run for U.S. Senate next year, is currently vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association, which focuses on helping elect GOP governors. “There are a lot of good people (in the association), 34 governors, I’m sure there will be somebody that will step up,” Scott said.

Scott: State has enough money to cover hurricane costs” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – We have the revenues,” Scott said… “General revenue is continually growing, significantly over recurring expenses. It all comes down to how you allocate dollars.” The last part of his comment is important in distinguishing how Scott views state revenues compared to the less rosy perception held by lawmakers. Legislative economists build into their revenue estimates “critical and other high priority needs,” which are items that have historically been funded because they are deemed important. The Legislature estimates that next year, roughly $2 billion will need to be set aside for those needs.

Lottery, House close to settling suit over $700M contract” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The Florida Lottery and the House of Representatives have told an appellate court they’re “on a pathway to resolution” regarding a pending lawsuit over the agency’s $700 million contract for new equipment. But the settlement in question may require legislative approval, a filing in the case now suggests. The parties filed a status report with the 1st District Court of Appeal Tuesday, released Thursday after a records request to the court. The 3-paragraph report says the “parties have reached an understanding,” but the “resolution may involve some final budget action by the Legislature and Governor for the next fiscal year.”

Reinsurance exec says industry was prepared for 2017 disasters” via Florida Politics – Despite a deadly and costly storm season this year, Aon Benfield President Andy Marcellsaid reinsurers were more than prepared to handle the call and bounce back quickly. “I feel like an elephant dancing on the head of a pin,” Marcell said, regarding the positive picture he painted compared to those in other segments of the insurance industry attending the 2017 Florida Chamber Insurance Summit. Despite what felt like unprecedented back-to-back-to-back catastrophes, Marcell said total insured losses this year haven’t yet hit 2005 levels. They were significantly higher than the average over the past decade, sure, but nothing the industry couldn’t handle … Marcell said the reinsurance market is in a much better place financially now than it was in 2005, pointing to successful, diversified business ventures many reinsurers started during the comparative lull of the past several hurricane seasons.

Jimmy Patronis speaks during the Florida Chamber of Commerce Insurance Summit, Thursday in Orlando. Photo credit: Colin Hackley.


For every letter, there is an equal and opposite” via Theodoric Meyer of POLITICO Influence –  Reps. Warren Davidson of Ohio and Ted Budd of North Carolina sent a letter to House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady urging him “to close a loophole that has enabled foreign insurers to ship jobs and capital overseas” as part of the tax reform push. But the foreign insurers have their own allies in Congress. Reps. Dennis RossBill PoseyGus Bilirakis and Ted Yoho, all Florida Republicans, sent their own letter to Brady pushing the opposite position. “The costs of a new tax on cross-border reinsurance transactions far outweigh any alleged benefits,” they wrote. “We understand the concerns of domestic reinsurers who feel the U.S. tax system undermines their competitiveness on the global stage; however, we believe that issue is best addressed by reducing the U.S. corporate tax rate and otherwise leveling the playing field for domestic stakeholders.” That’s the same position taken by the Coalition for Competitive Insurance Rates.


Kamala Harris in Jacksonville today to raise money for Bill Nelson” the AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – Nelson’s fundraiser costs $500 to attend, $1,000 to host, $2,700 to chair. And offering added incentive, Democratic donors will get a chance to meet first-term California Senator Harris. Harris is one of many potential Democratic candidates for president in 2020 who, when polled against President Trump, come out ahead. The Nelson fundraiser will be at the home of House District 15 hopeful Tracye Polson, who is making a bid to turn Republican Rep. Jay Fant‘s district from red to blue.

Adam Putnam hits stump speech notes at AP day” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – When he addressed Tallahassee media, he did so with the momentum — and the stump speech — of a presumptive nominee. “I’m talking about hurricanes and wildfires and child nutrition — it’s hard to compete with sex, but I’ll do my best to keep it interesting,” Putnam quipped in his opener, referring to the previous session with Senate President Negron dealing with a lot of questions about the Senate’s sexual harassment policy. Putnam went on to discuss the hurricane, noting that Florida’s produce crop will be reduced this holiday season, and expressing hope that federal assistance would be provided. Eleven minutes in, Putnam dispensed with the overview of his tenure as commissioner, pivoting to stump speech oratory about Florida as a “launch pad for the American dream.” Putnam, as any sentient candidate would, went on to emphasize the importance of grassroots. “But grassroots isn’t free,” Putnam added. “Running statewide in Florida has to be done on more than car washes and bake sales.”

In addition to speaking to reporters at AP Day, Adam Putnam delivered brief remarks at the Florida GOP’s Statesman of the Year Dinner.

Andrew Gillum camp pushes back on survey results on corruption, consolidation” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – A survey by Sachs Media Group [showed] an overwhelming number of local residents are concerned about corruption and crime in the capital city. The survey … showed 83 percent of respondents are somewhat or very concerned about corruption at City Hall and 88 percent are aware of an FBI investigation into the Community Redevelopment Agency. Geoff Burgan, Gillum’s communications director for his gubernatorial campaign, tweeted: “That big Sachs media poll hyped in @politicofl Playbook & by other press? Methodology is a mess.” “What I’m saying is the survey methodology is problematic,” Burgan said in a telephone interview. He said the questions were leading and the methodology unscientific. “Sending emails out is not a scientific polling method.” “That is just not true,” said Florida State University communication professor Jay Rayburn, who’s been teaching research methodology for 42 years and has conducted hundreds of surveys himself.

Ashley Moody’s Democratic past may raise questions in GOP primary for AG via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics –Moody’s past as a registered Democrat … may not play well with the GOP die-hards who will vote in the primary next year. Moody’s father James was appointed to a federal judgeship in 2000 — by Democratic President Bill Clinton. Moody wasn’t a Democrat for long. She flipped voter registration to become a student representative to the Florida University System Board of Regents. However, in that role, she showed a willingness to consider Democratic arguments that ran counter to Gov. Jeb Bush and his One Florida Initiative, which sought to end race-based criteria for admission to college. Moody wasn’t finished bucking Jeb Bush; in the 2002 gubernatorial race, Moody contributed $100 to the campaign of Democrat Bill McBride — another move that GOP supervoters are likely to find objectionable.

Voting restoration amendment has 750,000 signatures” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The main backer of a proposed constitutional amendment that would automatically restore some felons’ voting rights after they complete their sentences says his group now has collected over 750,000 signatures. Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, also said on Wednesday that he’s confident the amendment will have a million signatures by year’s end … The Florida Division of Elections website showed as of the end of Wednesday that the citizen ballot initiative, known as “The Voting Restoration Amendment,” has 301,064 verified signatures. Initiatives need 766,200 valid signatures for ballot placement.

A return to Congress for Allen West?” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – West now lives in Texas, where his name has percolated in speculation about candidates to replace U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling who announced this week he won’t seek re-election to a Dallas-area district. “I didn’t move here to run for political office, but that’s some interesting news you just told me,” West told The Texas Tribune when one of its reporters informed him of Hensarling’s retirement.

– “Libertarian HD 58 hopeful Bryan Zemina says Republicans should give him a look” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics


Personnel note: Eric Draper to become new state parks director” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – After 22 years, Draper is going to work for The Man. The executive director for Audubon Florida will become the next director of the Florida State Parks system. News of the hire was made public on Thursday. Draper’s first day is Nov. 28. He replaces Lisa Edgar, who quit in February after less than two months on the job, citing a “family emergency.” Draper’s state salary is listed at $115,000 a year. “Eric leaves Audubon with a legacy of real accomplishments,” said David Yarnold, president and CEO of the National Audubon Society, in a statement. Draper spent 22 years with the nonprofit environmental conservation organization, the last eight as executive director.

Tweet, tweet:

Appointed – Sarah Dougherty to Daytona State College District Board of Trustees; Randall Reid (reappointed) to Hillsborough Community College District Board of Trustees; David Rich to Gulf County Board of County Commissioners.

— ALOE —

Florida stories a rich source for Sarah Gerard’s ‘Sunshine State’” via Colette Bancroft of the Tampa Bay Times – Gerard has moved away from her native Pinellas County, but Florida plays a starring role in her book Sunshine State. “I love it,” Gerard says of her home state. “It’s such a rich source of stories.” The book is an unusual one, a collection of essays that range between memoir and journalism. Some are entirely personal, some are straightforward reporting, and some of the most intriguing are a mixture of both. Gerard, 32, grew up in Pinellas County and graduated from Gibbs High School. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and teaches writing workshops at Columbia University and for Catapult, a writing community. She is also the author of the novel Binary Star. “Florida is a kind of microcosm of all the clashes over politics, religion, all the clashes in our society,” she says “I was interested in how people act on their beliefs, or against their beliefs, and how we come to hold our beliefs.”

Happy birthday to Sen. LatvalaClay Barker, Nicole Graganella, Capital City Consulting’s Kenny Granger, and Paul Sanford.

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Phone: (727) 642-3162
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St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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